Spices: Clove Bud

Clove Bud, Franz Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897. Public Domain.

Clove Bud, Franz Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897. Public Domain.

Every spice cabinet I’ve ever opened has the underlying aroma of clove. Clove is that spice that you buy maybe once every five years, except if you’re my mom, then it’s once every thirty.

True story, a few years ago McCormick published an ad that listed their different herbs and spice packaging throughout the years, accompanied by a tagline that urged people to clean out their spice cabinet. Well, some of my mom’s spices were from the early 80s. Thirty years!

Until I had a toothache last week, I never knew of much use for cloves outside of baking. I remembered reading in my favorite essential oil book*  that clove had antiseptic properties and was often used as a dental analgesic.

I put a few drops on some cotton gauze and stuck it in my mouth. After a few moments the gum was blessedly numb. Granted, my mouth tasted like I licked my mom’s old McCormick clove tin, but I was grateful for the relief.

Clove Bud

Latin Name: Syzygium aromaticum, of the family Myrtaceae. Also in the family Myrtaceae (Myrtle family) are myrtles, guava, allspice and eucalyptus.

Native to: The Maluku Island in Indonesia, historically known as the Spice Islands

Parts Used: The flower bud of the clove tree

Common Forms: Ground, dried whole bud, essential oil. The active compound of clove is eugenol, also contained in basil, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg.

History:  Archaeologists have found evidence of cloves in Syrian pottery dating back to around 1720 BC (1). The first reported use of clove is from the Hang Dynasty (260 BC to 220 AD). According to written records, “officers of the court were made to hold clove in their mouth when talking to the king.” (2)

Clove is one of the four “major” spices in trade and history, along with nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. Procuring it sparked expeditions and wars. For more information: History of Cloves.

Using Clove: Clove is used in a variety of ways. Most of us know clove from culinary applications–my favorite being Soft Ginger Cookies.  Historical Europeans preserved meat using cloves, as well as enjoying it for its added flavor (clove studded ham spiral, anyone?). Jamaican jerk spice blends and Indian curries also can contain cloves.

Medicinally, clove has been used for thousands of years. In Ayurveda, clove is indicated to aid slow digestion. Perhaps it’s best known application is as a dental analgesic and antiseptic, for which it is still used (rather,  its active compound, eugenol) in modern dentistry.

Magically: Because it belongs to the myrtle family, I associate clove with Aphrodite (3). Therefore, use in spells, charms, or ritual involving relationships, love, beauty and sexuality would be appropriate.

When I’m practicing in the kitchen, I use clove as a warming and comforting agent. Use sparingly, however, since it is very powerful because of the eugenol. Excess eugenol can have definite physical effects in the mouth.

Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs lists Clove as masculine and associated with Jupiter and fire. It is also indicated to use for protection, money and exorcism.

Sources and Resources:

*The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Woodward. I can’t recommend it enough.

1. 2. “Clove” from Wikipedia. Footnote 18. Spice: The History of Temptation by Jack Turner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clove

2. “Cloves” by Cynthia Gladen. https://www.lib.umn.edu/bell/tradeproducts/cloves

3. “Aphrodite” http://www.theoi.com/Summary/Aphrodite.html

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Herbs: Calendula (Pot Marigold)

Open fresh your round of starry folds,

ye ardent marigolds!

Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,

For great Apollo bids

That in these days your praises should be sung!

—“I Stood Tiptoe” by John Keats

Latin name: Calendula officinalis from the Asteraceae family. The asteraceae family is huge! It includes sunflowers, daisies, lettuce, safflower, dahlia, Texas Tarragon, echinacea, chamomile….and the list goes on!

Native to: Probably Southern Europe, though it’s not certain.

Popular Cultivars: The cultivars are basically differences in colors and petal production. Some flowers have double-layered petals. Most calendula flowers range in color from pale yellow to bright orange-red.

Growing Calendula: Calendula is a relatively easy plant to grow, especially from seed. You do need to plan though. For this year’s crop, I sowed the seeds in late last September (I’m in Zone 8B, click here to find out your Zone) and kept them moist throughout the winter. Winter was mild, so I didn’t have to protect them much. The seeds sprouted in October.  Greenery grew slowly throughout the winter, and I saw the first buds in early February. I began harvesting in early March. I pulled up the plants in early April, because they were attracting too many caterpillars.

Next year, I’d plant calendula (and chamomile) in a completely separate bed from any vegetable seeds you might be starting. Calendula tends to attract the bugs with the munchies, and chamomile attracts aphids.

As with most flowers, cut the bloomed flowers as you see them. This will encourage more blossoms. Drying them is easy: lay them on a kitchen towel in a well-ventilated area, dry, room that doesn’t receive much (if any) sunlight. Rotate them around every couple of days to ensure even drying.

Using Calendula: After the flowers have dried thoroughly (2-3 weeks) pull the petals off and place into a clean glass jar. Keep the jar away from sunlight and too much heat (don’t store next to your oven, etc.).

Calendula is typically used to help with inflammation, eczema, and sunburn. It has antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral as well as astringent properties. Truly, a very useful herb.

The easiest way to use dried calendula is to simply make a tea with it. Take a couple of tablespoons of dried leaves, pour near-boiling water over the, steep for 10. Strain and drink. The tea can be used for upset stomach or sore throat. You could use the tea topically either in a bath or by making a compress.

Since I haven’t worked much with my own batch yet as far as actual products go, here is a good link on how to get started with salves, creams, sprays and oils.

Magically: Calendula/Marigold is associated with the sun (as are many of the asteraceae family). Calendula’s element is fire, and its associated gender is masculine. According to Cunningham, marigold aids in protection, prophetic dreaming, legal matters and psychic powers.

To me, calendula has a gently masculine feel. It was the first hot-colored bloom of the spring, vigorous and so showy! But when working with the plant itself, the feel was comforting and…old. The petals gave off a calm, warm, healing energy as I processed them. As if to say, “Lady, I’ve been around a long time.”

Resources Used:

1. Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs, DK Natural Health, Penelope Ody, 2000

2. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Revised Edition, Llewellyn,  Scott Cunningham

3. A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, Destiny Books, Ellen Evert Hopman, 1995

4. Growing and Using Healing Herbs, Rodale Printing, Gaea and Shandor Weiss, 1985

(On that note…I need a  more up-to-date herbal!)

(One more note…be careful when using Calendula/Marigold that you’re using the real deal: Calendula officinalis, not the other ornamental ‘marigold’, whose botanical name is Tagetes. Tagetes is *not* a medicinal herb.)

Disclaimer: Before using any herbal remedy, check with your doctor.

Herbs: Basil

Latin name: Ocimum basilicum from the Lamiaceae (mint) family

Native to: India

Popular Cultivars: Lemon and cinnamon, African Blue, Holy Basil, Thai Basil

Basil, King of Herbs. It almost seemsredundant to do a post on basil, but I was inspired by some drying in my workroom. Truthfully, they’ve probably been left too long, but I can’t bear to take them down.

Basil has a long, venerable history across many cultures. Basil itself is thought to have originated in India, and was commonly used for religious and medicinal purposes. From there, it spread both east and west.

There are conflicting views and traditions surrounding basil. Some cultures associate it with death and hatred, others with love, fertility and exorcism. Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is sacred to both the Hindus and those of Greek Orthodox faith. To the Romans, basil was an herb of fertility, and “they believed that it would only flourish where it was tended by a beautiful young maiden” (1). Nicholas Culpeper, the famed herbalist, seemed to think basil as an evil plant, stating that: “This herb and rue will not grow together…and we know rue is as great an enemy of poison as any that grows.” (2) Culpeper associated basil with “the planet Mars and under the Scorpion…it is no marvel if it carry a virulent quality with it.” (3).

Modern Pagan associations aren’t as negative. Scott Cunningham associates the herb mainly with the planet Mars, the element of Fire and with the applications of love, fertility, exorcism and wealth. Ellen Dugan’s book, Cottage Witchery, agrees and corresponds Basil to wealth and good luck.

My personal correspondences with basil are: hot, fire, summer, energetic, moist, growth!, hardy and fresh.

Medicinal uses range from applying fresh leaves to insect bites (this was found in all of my books and throughout history) to drinking an infusion as a tonic for motion sickness and head colds. (4)

Basil needs to be grown in rich soil and in full sun. It loves the heat and can survive extreme temperatures as long as it gets a good drink. Basil is an easy herb to grow from seed, just scatter in a pot and cover lightly with dirt and compost. Keep it moist–but not drenched–and you should have enough basil to keep you from spring to autumn. In  most locations basil is an annual that needs to be replanted every year.

My favorite way to use basil? Fresh and in food! Pesto, caprese salad, julienned on top of pasta sauces and sautéed veggies. I’ve used basil as a remembrance of old friends and to heal emotional wounds. Basil brings me joy in the garden, from its strong and frisky anise aroma to its vigorous growth throughout the season.

(1) The Book of Magical Herbs by Margaret Picton, published 2000.

(2) DK Natural Health: Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs by Penelope Ody, MNIMH, published 2000, second edition.

(3) Growing and Using Healing Herbs by Gaea and Shandor Weiss, published 1985.

(4) See citation 2.

(5) Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham, published in 2011, second edition, nineteenth printing.

(6) Cottage Witchery by Ellen Dugan, published 2005.

This post is meant to be fun and educational, and in no way meant to be used for self-treatment of self-diagnosis. If you have questions, speak to your doctor.